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Here are emerging trends shaping cooking ingredients and meals industry

Consumers are seeking premium, healthier, and environmentally sustainable options.

The global sales of cooking ingredients and meals rose by 4.4% due to inflation and higher commodity prices in 2023, as per Euromonitor International.

“Consumers across markets became more frugal when shopping for essential goods, and cut back on splurging,” the report noted.

“Some switched from foodservice to ready meals to save money, while others turned to promotions, discounters and private label to cut spending on items for home-cooked recipes,” it added.

Amidst this economising trend, premium products thrived, particularly in segments such as ready meals and sauces. This reflects a growing polarisation amongst consumers, where some prioritise cost-saving measures whilst others indulge in premium offerings. 

Moreover, many consumers still seek high-quality, gourmet products offering convenience in meal preparation. “Consumers are most willing to pay more for health and nutritional properties, followed by superior taste,” the report noted.

Additionally, there's an uptick in demand for healthier options, with preferences shifting towards sugar reduction, high-fiber, high-protein, and lactose-free alternatives, even in traditionally indulgent categories.

Plant-based alternatives, once sparse across cooking ingredients and meals categories, have also gained traction in recent years. Consumer trust in labels like "vegan" has significantly increased, driving growth in plant-focused dietary claims, particularly in meals and soups. However, despite this growth, products with such claims still have low market penetration.

Environmental sustainability is also increasingly on consumers' minds, with interest extending beyond organic labels to encompass various sustainable sourcing claims. Categories like sauces, dips, and condiments have seen a surge in responsible marine sourcing labels.

ALSO READ: Plant-based dairy demand surges in Malaysia

Moreover, new retail solutions are emerging to enhance the convenience of ready meal offerings. From dedicated ready meal stores to innovative vending machines catering to workers with unconventional schedules, the industry is witnessing a shift towards greater convenience and accessibility.

“Cooking ingredients and meals may seem to enter a period of relative stability in the forecast period, yet changes within various categories are underway,” the report said.

“The search for affordable solutions will create a demand for bulk offers and private label diversity. At the same time, demand for higher quality and improved product experience will be on the rise,” it stated.

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